The Lotus and the Cuttlefish

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This is a pretty short post because, well, its pretty straight forward.

Today I put the finishing touches on my ink-on-wood Lotus Flower and Cuttlefish birch wood panel (6×12).

It all started with a sketch


Then I transferred the sketch to the wood panel with a piece of graphite paper


Then came the inking of the lines.

The tricky part is to draw a little slow compared to my normal speed so the ink has time to fill the grain but fast enough to make sure that the lines do not bleed.


Here are the pens I used.

Here is the wood.


I got all of my supplies at Jerry’s Artarama in San Antonio. Check them out here. 


Here is the final piece.

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Run out and give it a try, its awesome.

At this point a lot of artist go in and add color with paint or colored pencil.

I am not doing this as I just love the wood grain look.

Go make one and let me know how it turns out.



Halloween is Almost Here!!!!!!

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IMG_0711Halloween at the Pilotte household means something different than it does for most people.

My kids are all creative (two of my daughters are in art school). We live for making stuff and Halloween is one of our favorite holidays simply because it gives us a chance to do all kinds of crazy creative things. Here are the pics folks for your enjoyment. If you want to do this you can, its easy and relatively cheap. Just be creative and use a lot of discarded junk to keep your cost down. Our display usually draws crowds on Halloween as well as our costumes. Make it a family project and have fun!!! Nobody is too young to help.








Halloween Prep 2015

How we did it:

So this year we wanted a grave yard and a ghostly reaper like being floating above the cemetery fence. We keep cost down by using mostly junk or cheap stuff. For instance our fence was old fence boards from our fence project on the house earlier this year. The grave stones are from the dollar store and enhanced with cheap glow in the dark crafter paint from Wal-Mart. Half the gravestones we made from some old throw away ice chests we cut up and used a cheap wood burner to “carve”. Most of the graves are covered with monster mud and crafter paint.

Our reaper, Stan, was made from paper, string, 2x4s, old fabric, monster mud and spray paint.

The lights are inexpensive CHRISTMAS LED lights from Walmart.

The pumpkins on the fence are styrofoam pumpkins we re painted to look better.


I am not going to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of great tutorials for using monster mud on Youtube and on the web in general. Its easy, relatively cheap, and fun. It does NOT wash out of clothes. It DOES wash off your body with some scrubbing and warm water and soap.

Ukuleles, Aging, and Being the Best Dirt Bag You Can Be

posted in: Art Projects | 0

I got roped into a ukulele club by my two middle school daughters Sophi and Mia.

I leave no challenge from my kids unmet.

As I mulled over the idea of sitting with a bunch of kids who were going to smoke me in learning songs and chords I figured that I better play to my strengths (pardon the pun).

So I decided if I cannot wow someone with my playing I better use what I have.

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Ok, so you want to do this? 

Pretty simple.

  1. Draw out your design on paper first. All good designs come from good plans.
  2. Clean the wood to be painted with alcohol and a degreaser but do it very VERY carefully. On this particular Kala ukulele the finish on the wood is VERY thin and the grain of the wood is very open. You do NOT want to soak the wood or even have it so wet it has to dry. Use a little of each alcohol and then the degreaser on a cloth (an old t-shirt will do). Clean carefully.
  3. Now use a Stabilo pencil to copy your design onto your instrument. Draw lightly, rub off with an old soft cloth once your paint is dry or to “erase” mistakes etc. This is a Stabilo pencil. 
  4. I used One Shot Lettering Enamel paint to do the design with a few pin-striping brushes. Here are the ones I used. I did use a little reducer and a little hardener to make sure the paint moved nicely and dried very hard. Practice making your designs on a practice surface (an old piece of wood, glass, or a paper plate or something) before painting your instrument.
  5. Allow a good 24 hours for drying before playing and thats it.

Here are the paints and such. 

One Shot Black paint

One Shot Reducer 

One Shot Hardener

Note: Here in San Antonio I got my paints etc at Herwick’s Art store  Their prices were pretty good and their staff at the store are really awesome. Their website leaves a LOT to be desired but that is most art store websites (sigh). 


The Backstory:

We won’t ever get any older and we won’t ever die, or so said Anthony Wilford Brimley in the 80s sci fi flick Cocoon. Our society seems to do everything we can to stay young and avoid death. In my humble opinion I think that here in the U.S. we are a bit extreme and unhealthy with our views on aging and death but I will save that rant for another post. While staying young and trying to avoid death are generally very good endeavorers, one cannot expect to live forever. Regardless of how healthy a lifestyle you engage in eventually you will “hit the wall” where your age catches up with you. I mention this today because I think about aging and death a fair amount more these days than I did when I was in my 30s and before.

376f42ca58df48c0f4e166df42f65b56I am on the downhill slide to 50 now and as most people who know me can attest, I still have no idea what “growing up” means. I still bomb hills on longboards in the park with my kids. I am still apt to start, and finish, a paint splatter fight in the yard when the kids and I are supposed to be painting Halloween decorations. I still draw on things I “shouldn’t be drawing on. I drive an “impractical” vehicle, still love pirates and loud rock n roll. The list could go on for days. While I do not think of myself as being a poster child for “fitness” (whatever that is) I do think that I have done a pretty good job of staying young and keeping my youth. As most of you should know, keeping your youth, is largely in your head.

As my hair becomes less and less… existent and my beard more and more white I find myself joining the ranks of “those guys” who are in the middle years of their life. Not that I intend to “hang” with them. I still march to my own beat and its still pretty loud and fast. When my oldest son turned 5 we were in a skate shop looking at getting his first deck. I remember there was another little guy there about eight years old with his dad. Now I am the dirtbag in the camo shorts and sleeveless metal shirt and the eight year old is there with his dad… the guy in pressed Docker pants, pressed dress shirt and corporate hair. My son, Zak, asks me to pull down a deck he really likes. I get the deck down and he tries to ride it but cannot balance (yet). So I jump on the deck and tack down the isle. At (then) thirty seven years of age I was no Tony Hawk but I could still skate. I can still skate today even at fourty six! As a father its always huge to be able to impress your kids. (Dads, do this often and relish in it. Poor is the dad who’s children do not surpass him one day.)  Zak grabs the board and heads for the check out counter so we can buy it. As we walk by the other father and son I see out of the corner of my eye the eight year old boy hand a deck to his dad and ask him to show him how to skate. “I don’t think so!” was his dad’s response. They left without a board. I think about that moment a lot. Even if I could not skate I would have rather have busted my a** trying than to blow my kid off like that. Oh, and I have the scars to prove that I have left no challenge from my kids unmet. Kids grow up too fast and we have precious little time to enjoy those moments playing with them.

I am a huge advocate of learning new things often and chasing down ships that have already sailed. I always meant to get around to playing the guitar but never made the time for it. My daughter Sophi came to me at the beginning of the school year and told me that the middle school symphony teacher was starting up a ukulele club and parents could come and learn to play with the kids. Now my daughter has yet to pick up an instrument she cannot play and currently is in the symphony at school playing violin. Intimidation be damned I jumped in. Mia, my other middle school daughter decided to join us as well and now here we are strumming along. I am nobody you would willingly desire to listen to as of today. I am left in the dust by my kids but every day we have a blast playing together and in the end that is what its all about. Its part of what it means to be an engaged dad in my book and it does keep that youth alive in me more than anything you can bottle or sell.

So those are the thoughts that have been running through my head as I sat down to paint a ukulele. Now I have to paint one for each of my musical daughters (-:



Dia de los Muertos Framed Poster Prints and t-Shirts!!!

posted in: Tobinland Shop | 1


Print     day of the dead 2

Here are the latest t-shirts and prints going up in the Tobinland Store. Both the shirts and the framed poster prints are beautifully printed! The poster prints are stunning 18×24 prints with a black frame. They look amazing. Going up on my office wall this weekend!

ddlm II      ddlm I

The t-shirts are awesome, the printing is just beautiful and they come in both men’s and women’s.

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I am sitting in my office and looking at the calendar. It is about six weeks till Halloween. Even on the down hill slide to 50 years of age I still look to this holiday with excitement. It’s the time of the year that my wife jokingly tells people she has seven children and not six as she points at me as being the seventh! We go all out here at the Pilotte household putting on decorations and costumes that are better and better every year.

As a kid I was in love with the fall. The cooling temperatures and the change in the wind was very noticeable even in Corpus Christi, Texas, my boyhood home. The excitement grew with each passing week of school as we progressively marched through one holiday after another till we reached Christmas.

I could wait, however, because the first of the fall holidays was Halloween. The one day a year that a kid could be whatever they wanted to be, eat more candy than was parentally acceptable, spook your friends, and go to haunted houses. We occasionally even got the nerve up to knock on the door of that one house in the neighborhood we all new was haunted. I am pretty sure every neighborhood has one of those.

Growing up in a Catholic household in a predominately Hispanic community meant that the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls were very important. It was also the time of year to see something else. You could not go anywhere in South Texas and not see images and decorations for Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). This largely misunderstood holiday was as much a celebration of life as it was a celebration of the lives of those who have passed on to their eternal reward. You can read more about the holiday HERE.

In South Texas there is an overlapping of many cultures in our celebration of Halloween. Much of the tratitions and symbology can be traced back to the Irish and the Spanish for instance. As America is messy melting pot of cultures a lot of the Dia de los Muertos imagery and symbolism has worked its way into Halloween. It is no wonder, the once summer holiday, Dia de los Muertos coincides with the Roman Catholic triduum festival of AllhallowtideAll Saints’ EveAll Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.

 This is where the inspiration for these two artworks comes from. I hope you enjoy them.

The Tobinland Store

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cropped-logotopper.jpgJust some quick news. I will be posting two new t-shirts and two new prints that I know you are going to go crazy about on Thursday, September 17. Between right now and the time I post the shirts the store may be inaccessible. I am doing some branding changes and changing the store name from Vita Saxa, a store I have had for a while, to the Tobinland official store. This is primarily to avoid confusion and to make sure that there is a unified look and feel to the sites I am branding with the Tobinland branding. Don’t worry, this changes nothing as far as products are concerned. All the same shirts and prints that were there will still be there. Stay tuned for the new products though because I know you will flip when you see them.

BTW, did you know you can shop directly at the Tobinland store on the Tobinland Facebook page and on Pinterest? Check it out. Enjoy!


Do Not Kill Yourself or Your Style

posted in: Inspiration and Motivation | 0

3b04775rFar better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

I think about this a lot. As an artist I have traditionally thought about the world and seen the world differently than most. That is part of the package when you are an artist, you are just different. Sometimes your strange, weird, eccentric, a little “off” or just odd. That is fine, we artists have a reputation to stick to. Worry less about what others think of you and you will be a hundred times more joyful. If you don’t believe that then just try living it out. Fake it till you make it if you have to, but be honest and true with yourself and just be your self. Over time it becomes more and more comfortable as you realize that people are far less inclined to reject us than we sometimes think they are.

We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do. – Ethel Barrett

11 - 1 (9)Like your artistic “style” who you are should not be forced. The old adage that one should be themselves is so true for an artist. When you are good with just being who you are then you will find that your artwork will explode in ways you never imagined. You will generally not see this on day 1 but looking back, over time, you will see the changes.

Artistic style is like that too. I see so many young artists trying to force a style out and it just looks wrong. Style is something that happens over time as you, as an artist, explore who you are and what you have to say. Forcing a style is becoming someone else and limiting yourself to what they accomplished (or did not accomplish). Why is this a bad thing? I mean, if you can paint just like Van Gough what is wrong with more beautiful paintings done in his style adorning the walls of our world? Well, its actually pretty simple to answer that.

In the whole of creation there is only one you. Now you may be a person of faith or you may be an atheist, it matters not. This is a truism that anyone can run with. There is only one you and you are unique and you are beautiful. You are amazing. You are unique and you are unrepeatable. As a Christian I put it like this; God only made one you and He will make no other you no matter how you live your life. Knowing that in the entire cosmos there is only one you, right here, right now, you can see that you are an amazing work of art in yourself.

5735635686Your style is an expression of your artistic voice. Over time it becomes visible and over time you will come to own it.

Now, find someway to embrace that and go out and do something with that understanding.

You Want to be an Artist

posted in: Inspiration and Motivation | 0

IMG_0037I have a lot of people come up to me and tell me they “wish they could draw”. They often follow that up with “But I can’t draw a straight line.”  I love being an artist. For more than twenty five years when people ask me what I “do” I always tell them that I am an artist. Its been my professional career since around 1996 or so. Yes, I can draw a straight line. And, after a lot of practice I can pull a straight line with a pin striping brush on a car if I want to as well… that is a whole new level of “drawing a straight line”!



IMG_0003The truth of the matter is that I cannot turn it off. Its the way I think, the way I see, the way I hear and it guides a great deal of my emotions and decision making. That creative spirit that is at the heart of every artist is just like a child, it needs to be nurtured and given room to grow. What separates me from all those folks who “wish” they could do this is simply passion and persistence.

Folks who know me know I do not place a lot of stock in “talent” or even “genetic predispositions”. All the great artists and musicians I have ever encountered loved what they did so much that they just had to do it all the time. More than anything else it was their persistence and passion for their dreams that led to their ability being far beyond the average person.

The pics here represent my sketchbooks that I carry EVERYWHERE. Sometimes I draw little thumbnail sketches and sometimes pages become entire drawings of their own.

For anyone who wants to learn to be an artist I tell them that the first step, and the step they will take every day, is to make it your passion and persist in it. If you are worried about how you will know if its not your passion is that you will be unable to persist. That is ok, you can still enjoy art and creating it. However if you find that you just cannot turn it off, and you find persisting in long hours to produce your “visions” then you probably have everything you need right here, right now, to make your dreams begin to come true. Yes, you too can be an artist.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Calvin Coolidge

Waaaaaaay back in jr. high I saw the old Father Guido Sarducci commercials for art school and I was sold. It was the life for me. Some of you may remember the commercial I am referring to.

So today I want to just throw heaps of encouragement out there to anyone that wants to live that unconventional life of a creative person. To all the artists, musicians, sculptures, writers and poets I just want to say “Go for it!”  Maybe nobody believes that you can be great at your dream, if that is the case just know that this blogger artist believes that if you persist and love what you do everything else will just fall into place and you will find joy.

So go grab a pencil, an eraser and some paper and begin the first step down an amazing path.


Ghost of a Chance

posted in: Art Projects | 0

So how does an artist spend his or her weekend? Well the answers to that question are probably as varied as the kinds of artists there are in the world. For me, I like to find time to do something creative and this weekend it was for me. I have an 05 Jeep Wrangler (TJ) that was screaming for some painted love.

IMG_0611I love the look of hand painted signs and cars. Lettering, graphics and pin striping done by hand with paint is a thing of beauty and sadly its become a bit of a dying art. You see a resurgence in certain scenes such as in the Kustom Culture scene and the classic car/hot-rod scenes. Bikers seem to be a group of people who have never lost their appreciation for hand painted beauty. Once and a while I run across a mom & pop store that still uses hand painted signs, murals, vehicles and/or chalk signs. Its sad to me that its so rare.


IMG_0612When I was a kid, a long time ago, there was a character on Sesame Street, now this is back when Sesame Street was a new show on T.V. Anyway, there was a character, I think it was The Count, that would paint letters and numbers for the kids to learn how to write. I was always obsessed with just how perfectly painted those letters and numbers were. That is when I fell in love with art I think.

So here I am on a beautiful weekend with absolutely perfect weather and I have the radio playing a great Rockabilly mix and I am painting my Jeep. I was going to spend a couple of hours on Saturday morning painting and then enjoy the rest of the weekend but it turned into an all day Saturday and Sunday painting session. It was so awesome.

Hey all you creative types, shoot me pics of your creative weekends.

Like Jeeps? Grab a cool Jeep art shirt from my store HERE.

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